There And Back Again
By Daneysse Daniels
The family-like atmosphere and the packed gymnasiums are just two reasons why WSU volleyball head coach Jen Greeny originally decided to become a Cougar as a student-athlete.
Greeny, who is the 12th coach in the history of the Cougar volleyball program, was announced as the new head coach in March 2011.
Greeny (then Jen Stinson) arrived at Washington State University in 1996 on a volleyball scholarship and says she chose the sport over others because of some of the challenges it presented to her.
"I came from a very small school and so the level of volleyball wasn't very high so I sort of took volleyball as a challenge," Greeny said. "I really enjoyed just the sport itself and I think that's just because I had been playing basketball for so long that volleyball was kind of new and exciting."
While growing up in eastern Washington, Greeny said it was no surprise she was an athlete because she was always around sports growing up.
"I was always involved in sports," Greeny said. "My dad was a teacher and a coach, and I had two older brothers that were involved in sports, so just from an early age I have always been involved in sports. I was always at games, and always in the gym."
While at Davenport High School in Davenport, Wash., Greeny excelled as a three sport athlete. Greeny finished as the all-time leading scorer in basketball (men's or women's) with 2,881 points. She also led the school to two state titles on the court. Greeny won three state high jump championships, and was named one of Volleyball Magazine's Fab Fifty Freshman recruits.
When it came to making a decision on what university to attend, Greeny said WSU had an atmosphere and high level of community support that really made it stick out over others.
"The coaching staff and the team, the culture of that is very important," Greeny said. "It was something that I thought was very important when choosing my school, and that is something that we strive for here, to make it that family atmosphere.
"I think that the support from the community here was also a big thing. I made a lot of visits to other schools and just the level of support that they give to female athletes here. What really excited me about Washington State is that the gym was always packed for volleyball games, and just in general, female athletes get a lot more attention and respect here."
Greeny's statistics are prominent in WSU's all-time career lists ranking third in block assists (360), fourth in total blocks (419), seventh in solo blocks (59), and 11th in kills (1,006).
Greeny said her best memory of being a student-athlete came with the help of not only her teammate's hard work, but also from the fans.
"The best memory as a player is probably just going undefeated in Bohler Gym and in the Pac-10 as it was back then, that's so difficult to do," Greeny said. "A lot was the fans and the way that our team worked together."
During Greeny's playing career, WSU was ranked as high as fifth in the country and made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Greeny said her biggest lessoned learned as a player is hard work and that even though things don't come easy, that you just have to keep working and have a positive attitude.
As Greeny is an alumna of WSU, current senior Meagan Ganzer said that may be a quality she has that helps her connect better with players.
"She knows what we are going through, and she understands," Ganzer said. "I think as we go along I'm getting to know her more and she is getting to know me more. She has that intensity but she also has great patience as well."
Of the 16 players on the 2011 Cougar team, Greeny only recruited one of them. The other 15 players are either returners or were recruited by former head coach Andrew Palileo. Both Ganzer and teammate Rachel Todorovich said the main difference between the two coaching styles is the level of communication.
Todorovich said Greeny and the rest of the coaching staff like to be open with the team.
"Jen is just very vocal and very proactive in letting me know what I have done wrong," Ganzer said. "I am a very visual person so when I make a mistake, I like to be told what I've done wrong and how I can fix it.
Todorovich said the team has really bought into the new direction of the program.
"In order for a program to succeed you have to buy into everything, and we have bought into this coaching style," Todorovich said. "The main difference is the level of communication between the coaches and the players. Jen likes to be very open with us, with anything whether it has to do with the team or something personal."
Greeny has coached at all levels ranging from high school where she was the head coach at Pullman High School, assistant coach for WSU, and head coach at Lewis & Clark State College. She said her experience has helped her learn at each level.
Greeny said it is important to have that background and experience. She said in the recruiting process, she has been able to use her history in talking to other coaches at high schools and club teams to connect with them. Greeny said there is something to learn at each level.
Greeny said she is excited to be back with the Cougar team and to lead the program back to where it needs to be. She said the focus of the team is how they get wins, not just that they get the win.
"I think that the short term goal of the team is to just improve of last year's record and we have already done that, so we are happy about that but we really focus on getting better as a team and not really focusing on that win loss record," Greeny said.
"We do have a number in mind that would make us eligible for the tournament which is 16 wins but we really focus on the process in getting there. Whether that's passing or hitting a certain number in practice or games that is where we really focus but the ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA tournament at the end of the year."